What is mobile commerce? Why it’s important, and how to improve your strategy

| By Kelly Vaughn

What is mobile commerce? Why it’s important, and how to improve your strategy

How often in a day do you check your smartphone? Looking at your emails, taking a call, checking in on social media, searching for a new coffee shop, making a last-minute purchase for some daily essentials. We interact with our smartphones constantly. In fact, the average American checks their smartphone up to 96 times a day, and as often as once every 10 minutes. 

Mobile is convenient - it’s fast, portable, and simple to use. It’s no wonder then that mobile commerce has fast become a focus for ecommerce platforms, agencies, and merchants alike. However delivering on mobile commerce is about more than just having a good looking mobile site, its importance reaching across the customer experience, social media, and more.

What is mobile commerce?

Also referred to as m-commerce, mobile commerce involves any online transaction that takes place on a mobile device. By that definition, mobile commerce is then quite a broad subject as it then involves not just transactions on an ecommerce site but through many other digital transaction channels. These include mobile banking, in-app purchases, and purchasing anything to be used and displayed on a mobile device such as airline tickets. This could even extend to in-store contactless payments made using apps such as Apple Pay.

Its prevalence and growth has stemmed from how people interact with digital media, transactions, and technology in general. There are currently over 4.6 billion active internet users globally, and of that 90% use their mobile devices to access online services. Peoples’ lives and behaviors have adapted to easy, convenient access to the internet and its services, and thus the increase in mobile commerce has been a natural progression. 

Mobile commerce is now a huge part of commerce in general, which is why it’s so crucial for Shopify merchants to develop a strategy that has mobile front and centre.

Why you need a mobile commerce strategy

Meets your customers where they are

The need for a mobile commerce strategy is simple - you need to meet your customers where they are. It’s where people stay in touch with friends with messaging apps, use social media, watch movies, check their emails, and much more. There are few channels that can compete with the attention mobile receives, with 70% of US digital media time being spent on mobile devices. In fact, 34% of respondents in one UK survey said that they only use their smartphones to access the internet, and 59% of global consumers say that being able to shop on mobile is important when deciding which brand or retailer to purchase from. When you consider how many day-to-day interactions happen through a smartphone, it’s hardly surprising how quickly mobile commerce has grown.

Facilitates omnichannel experiences

The way in which customers research and purchase products they want relies increasingly on several channels all working together to create one fluid experience. Omnichannel gives customers the ability to use more than one channel in their purchasing journey, making it easy for them to switch between channels as they want to. For example, perhaps they do their research on Google, then they go to your site on desktop, see an ad on social media, get an abandoned cart SMS with a link to their basket, and finally place an order on their smartphone for collection at your brick-and-mortar store. 

Mobile creates an essential link between these channels, especially as customers will more than likely have their mobile device on them at all times whereas it’s less common that they’ll be on desktop. Especially if you have a physical retail store, mobile commerce can be a big asset to the customer experience. 82% of consumers use their phones to research a purchase they plan to make, and 56% of shoppers use their mobile device to research products while they’re physically in the store.

Addresses global customer behaviors

Mobile devices globally accounted for around 57% of internet traffic. However if we dive a little deeper into that figure and break it down by global region, it paints a very different picture. 

Mobile internet traffic statistics globally

Sources - Asia, Africa, North America, UK.

Different regions rely on mobile devices in different ways. In countries such as China, for example, they use platforms like WeChat for a wide range of daily activities and transactions. In fact 92% of people living in China’s biggest cities use WeChat Pay or AliPay as their primary payment method. If you have ambitions of expanding globally into these mobile-first markets, it makes sense to have a strong mobile commerce strategy in place.

5 ways to improve your m-commerce strategy

1 - Mobile-first UX/UI

Your customers’ mobile experience starts with your store’s mobile UX and UI. To recap, UX or User Experience refers to how a user interacts with your store and its content, such as perceived ease-of-use, page layouts, and site navigation. UI or User Interface is how your store functions and looks, so how that interactivity is presented. These two concepts are crucial to your mobile experience, as more than 50% of users say they won’t consider purchasing from a brand with a poorly designed mobile site and they’re five times more likely to abandon whatever they’re doing if your site isn’t optimized for mobile.

Shopify merchants have a bit of a starting edge when it comes to mobile, as all Shopify themes from the Theme Store are mobile responsive out of the box. However, that's only a starting point, in order to make the most of that feature and develop a mobile UX/UI that will actually impress customers, merchants need to do more.

The road to developing a strong mobile UX/UI starts with an audit. Conducting a UX/UI audit can highlight exactly where your current mobile experience is falling flat. Usability testing can reveal where you need to improve elements such as tapability, and contrast and colors. Further testing will show you where pages may be too long, which content should be optimized, and so on. Ecommerce experiences are typically built on desktop, so it can be easy to make it look good on a desktop viewport and forget how that may translate to mobile. 

Here are some easy tips for developing a mobile-first UX/UI:

  • Optimize your site for speed as a priority - 74% of US adults say they’d abandon a mobile site if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load. Do this by reducing image file sizes, minifying code, reducing the amount of unnecessary content on a page, and removing any retired or unused apps from your store.

  • Make your site’s navigation easy to use - Keep the number of top level navigation links to a minimum to make it simple and straightforward for users to navigate. Make it easy for users to also search your site, putting the search function in a clear and easily accessible location in your menu.

  • Keep any forms short and to the point - The more fields there are in a form, the more frustrating it is to use on mobile. If you use these for contact forms or order information, keep fields to a minimum with only the information you actually need from the customer.

  • Ensure any button areas are large enough - No one likes clicking a button and it either doesn’t do anything, or hitting one link close to another and loading the wrong page. Buttons should be clear and large enough for users to tap easily. Avoid cluttering any areas around buttons so that the user doesn’t accidentally tap the wrong one.

2 - Facilitate omnichannel and multiple payment methods

73% of consumers use multiple channels throughout their purchasing journey, and many of those channels will involve mobile in some way. That includes social media, search engines, and physical retail outlets. We’re going to look at social media and commerce later in this article, so for now we’re going to focus on payment methods, and how omnichannel with brick-and-mortar can play into your mobile commerce strategy.

Consumers have very fluid behavior when it comes to how they interact with in-store shopping and mobile. They might search online for a product, check it out in-store, then later purchase it on their smartphone for delivery or even in-store collection. These online-to-offline experiences are a big part of how people shop, and it isn’t difficult to incorporate more omnichannel O2O touch points into your store’s strategy:

  • Offer in-store collection for mobile purchases  - also known as BOPIS, or “Buy online, pick-up in store”. 
  • Show in-store stock availability on product pages.
  • If an item is out of stock in your physical store but in-stock in your ecommerce warehouse, offer customers to order in store for home delivery.
  • Offer contactless and app payments in-store.

The last point leads us onto another crucial part of the mobile commerce experience - payment methods. Whether they’re paying in-store or online, having a variety of payment options is important to consumers. Offering one-click checkout options through providers such as Shop, PayPal, and Apple Pay make it extremely easy for customers to get through the checkout process faster on mobile. 

You should also make considerations for international customers who may want to pay with options such as AliPay or bank transfer. Preferred payment methods vary by country and region, and 1 in 4 international customers will abandon their cart if their preferred method isn’t available. Shopify merchants can make use of Shopify Markets which offers the ability to add international currencies and payment methods, making it easier to meet the needs of customers and build trust.

3 - Social commerce

One of the primary ways that people use their smartphones and mobile internet is to browse social media. Different networks are predominantly explored on mobile devices, with 78% of social media users exclusively using their smartphone to do so. It makes sense then that as consumer interactions flow and merge between channels, mobile commerce and social commerce are increasingly becoming two sides of the same coin. Social media networks are developing stronger social commerce capabilities to facilitate brand relationships on their platforms, making it easier for their users to browse, engage, and shop all within their apps. Therefore if you’re already looking to optimize your mobile commerce strategy, having a strong social commerce strategy is essential. 

Social commerce can be a tool not just for purchasing, but for brand discovery with 54% of users saying they’ve used social media to find new brands. Therefore you want to optimize your social commerce to target both discovery and purchase. 

  • Encourage and display reviews on your social channels, especially in advertising. 
  • Work alongside influencers to promote new and best-selling products.
  • Make use of other user generated content to show potential customers what your products look like “in real life”.
  • Be strategic with the products you feature in your social storefront. Choose products on the lower end of your catalog’s pricing to boost the chances of impulse purchasing.

4 - Create an SMS strategy

Email marketing is an extremely effective tool for any ecommerce business, however if you want to target mobile commerce specifically then you should consider making use of SMS. Customers engage more frequently with text messages than they do with email - an email is typically opened within 90 minutes, however an SMS is checked within just 90 seconds. Not only that, on average 98% of SMS messages are opened by the end of the day they’re sent. By utilizing SMS marketing, you’re targeting customers where they are most likely to see and engage with your message.

There are two fronts you need to cover with SMS marketing for mobile commerce - sending the right messages, and personalization. 

Sending the right message

Unfortunately starting up with SMS isn’t as simple as adapting your email marketing to text messages. You’re much more limited with SMS, and you’re working with a small space and number of characters compared to email. Therefore you can’t send big visual campaigns, and lots of images and links. The key is to send the messages that your customers want to read.

  • Back-in-stock notifications 
  • Order updates - Dispatch, Shipping, Arrival information, Delays
  • Flash sales or reminders of upcoming sales i.e. BFCM
  • Abandoned cart reminders
  • Special dates i.e. birthdays or anniversaries

Keep your messaging concise and branded. Focus on one message at a time, rather than stuffing every SMS with as much information as possible. This makes it easier for the customer to digest and also less likely that they’ll come to think of your messaging as spammy.


The key to a great SMS strategy is personalization. Customers want information that’s actually relevant to them, rather than just blanket messaging without consideration for their preferences and behaviors. For example, if you’re having a flash sale on dresses and a customer only ever buys sweatshirts then they won’t engage with that SMS at all. 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalized messaging, so if you’re sending irrelevant information it’ll hurt your SMS engagement.

Personalize your SMS marketing easily by using your Shopify store data to customize messaging flows based on on-site behaviors, purchase behaviors, frequency of purchase, average order value, marketing engagement, and brand loyalty. 

5 - Customer support

Delivering great customer service plays a critical role in a customer’s perception of their overall experience. When asked, consumers said that offering excellent customer support was the top factor that impacts their trust with a brand. Much like everything else with mobile, customers expect every part of their experience to be optimized for convenience and ease-of-use and that includes when they need help from your team. 

Making the customer support experience simple and accessible for customers is fairly straightforward. 

  • Ensure your FAQ is easy to navigate on mobile, even better if it’s searchable.
  • Add additional self-service features such as real-time tracking or mobile chatbots.
  • Make it clear where to find contact information on your mobile site.
  • Integrate a strong customer service platform such as Gorgias that offers additional automation tools for mobile.
  • Use additional channels for support that are tailored for mobile such as WhatsApp.

Customers can then choose the customer service channel that best suits their needs, whenever they need access to support.


Access to smartphones and mobile technology has changed how people behave online. No longer tied to a desktop computer, customers have the power to discover new brands and purchase the products they want wherever they are, whenever they want. By having a mobile commerce strategy, you’re setting your Shopify store up to meet their needs and deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations.


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